U.S. Forest Service seeks inputon Flat Tops logging proposal | PostIndependent.com
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U.S. Forest Service seeks inputon Flat Tops logging proposal

Dennis Webb

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comment on a proposal to log near the popular Meadow Creek Lake area in the Flat Tops about 15 miles north of New Castle.By Dennis WebbPost Independent StaffThe U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comment on a proposal to log near the popular Meadow Creek Lake area in the Flat Tops about 15 miles north of New Castle.Trying to minimize the visual impacts of the plan will be a top concern during the project, which would involve cutting aspen, Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir as close as 600 to 700 feet from the lake. The lake already is home to one Forest Service campground with 10 campsites, and a second, 24-site campground is being built.The surrounding area also is popular for four-wheel-drives, dirt bikes, snowmobiles and other motorized vehicle uses.The Forest Service is proposing to log about 200 acres of aspen and 300 acres of spruce and fir in a project area of about 5,200 acres. It also would clear about 18 acres of aspen from roadsides to improve visibility for motorists and enable the roads to dry better after storms.The project would produce about 2.9 million board feet of timber from 19 logging units.It is aimed at producing commercial timber, reducing fire danger and helping aspen forests.”There’s quite a bit of aspen in that area that’s going to benefit from some regeneration treatment,” said Dave Silvieus, Rifle district ranger for the White River National Forest.Aspen, a common deciduous tree in Colorado’s high country that draws fall color enthusiasts when its leaves turn gold, is considered a transitional species. It often takes over in an area after fire, insect infestation or some other factor has cleared a forest. But eventually these areas can return to their original forest types as aspen age and die. Silvieus said subalpine fir is beginning to grow in some of the aging aspen stands around Meadow Creek Lake.The logging will open up forests, promoting new aspen growth, he said.Silvieus said the Forest Service has heard from some recreationists who want to protect the scenery around the lake. As the lake’s name suggests, though, it’s in an area of meadows, so there is little logging that could occur near the lakeshore, he said. But the Forest Service is trying to avoid logging in some highly visible locations.The logging would take place in a part of the forest designated for logging, Silvieus said.”It’s been a historical kind of multiple-use place,” he said.Silvieus said he thinks the Forest Service did a good job of keeping a mix of open and closed roads in its proposal. It would result in about 7 miles of temporary roads being built and another 16.7 miles of roads being reconstructed prior to log hauling.Under the plan, the Forest Service would close some old roads that parallel others and aren’t needed, Silvieus said.Some roads would be converted to motorized trails. Silvieus said the Forest Service is responding to recreationists’ demands to create more loop-type trails.The plan would also create some nonmotorized trails. The logs would be hauled on the Buford-New Castle Road either south toward Silt and New Castle or north toward Buford. The project would require about 580 trips by loaded log trucks.Log hauling would be prohibited on weekends, holidays, and two days before the first and second big-game hunting seasons.Ideally, the logging would begin this coming summer, Silvieus said. It is projected to take place over three to four operating seasons. However, the Forest Service hopes to carry out longer-term logging in the spruce/fir stands over 20 to 30 years. It would first cut out about a third of the timber by thinning from below, then cut another third in 10 or 15 years, with the last timber in the original stand cut at the end of the project.Silvieus said the amount of timber to be produced is sizable by today’s standards.”In times past this would have been considered small, but times have changed,” he said. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, timber sales probably averaged about 6 million board feet on the White River National Forest, Silvieus said. But environmental pressures and other factors have reduced the size of logging projects. Silvieus said they now average probably about 3 million board feet.Still, he hopes the project is big enough that it will attract some interest from logging companies.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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